Recently, on Hardball Talk, I’d mentioned a cat I used to know. Name of Gaston. I haven’t thought about that cat in years. Since I’m reminded of him, I think I’ll use some space here and talk about him a bit rather than make up crap about me and vegetables for a change.
When I first met Gaston, my family had just moved in next door to him. He was sitting on the fence watching us lug our stuff in on a cold March morning. He earned my brother’s displeasure pretty much straight off by yowling that night, and every night for a week, in some sort of broken hearted requiem to the little Manx across the street who wasn’t allowed out after dark. My brother it should be pointed out, was not, and remains not to this day, a cat person. He’s all dog. Anyhow he had Gaston cold as the culprit: Gaston was a mostly white cat with two black feet. He literally could not hide at night. My brother also claimed it was Gaston spraying his basement window with cat-love every fortnight. I maintained that it was not Gaston, but some other feral cat. Anyhow the neighbor’s daughter, Darla, had assured him that Gaston was fixed, but my brother remained adamant that Gaston was all male. The neighbor’s daughter was quite striking herself. She was about 17 and, to put it mildly, hot. A fact that she was well aware of. Since, at age 14, I fit into the demographic of “scrawny & bespectacled” and came up to Darla’s C cup in height, I was only of notice to her when she’d call Gaston in and he’d leave my lap where he’d been enjoying having his ears scratched whilst up an apple tree with me, to go get his dinner. My brother, being older, taller, and possessed of the ability to charm people with nothing more than a grin, wink and lazy flex of 20 inch guns, was doing far better at getting her attention. Gaston, for his part, seemed unmoved, one way or the other, by my brother.
Anyhow, my lusting after the neighbor’s daughter was going about as well as Gaston’s of the little Manx. Neither one of us was having our way. So, we’d share out misery together. We’d sit in the apple tree, I’d read something involving laser beams, space ships, kung fu and pliant women and he’d purr and enjoy his ears being scratched. I can’t recall how many days after school & during the summer I spent up that tree with that cat, but I wish I’d kept track. Looking back on it, they were some of the best, most carefree days I’ve ever spent.
My brother probably agrees that those were in fact good days. His adventures involved very few apple trees and very many forays over the fence and Darla’s bedroom via her window. This activity started within a month of our moving in early in the spring of that year. Not a chap to waste his time, my brother possessed an innate decisiveness that I think girls found attractive. If he decided he was doing something, he didn’t beat around the bush or second guess himself. He just went out and did it. He worked fast, was dexterous, charming, and totally at ease in company. The evil sod.
For my part, I viewed this development between my brother and the neighbor’s daughter with despair, despondency and, finally, acceptance. It wasn’t like I could beat him up: he could pretty much have heaved me like a lawn dart, if he wanted. Til recently, I wasn’t sure how that relationship ended, but end it did, and abruptly. One day, in the fall of the same year we moved in, he stopped heading over the fence, started dating some other girl (who was nowhere near as cute, in my opinion, but hey, it wasn’t me chewing on her face…alas), and Darla, for her part, wasn’t seen by me sunbathing in her back yard for the rest of that year or the following summer. I was pretty torn about the whole thing. On the one hand, she was now out from the foul clutches of my brother. On the other hand she had stopped hanging around in her bikini for my brother’s benefit (I was the unintended victim of a her casually tossed hand grenade of sexual allure). Gaston & I remained good friends, in spite of this rift between our families. In fact, insofar as one can judge emotion in a cat, I’m convinced that he was quite pleased about the whole thing: my brother claimed that whatever animal had been spraying their highly pungent love juice on his basement window had stopped it within days of him breaking up with Darla. Furthermore, he claimed that whatever weird cat-love poetry was going on at night had also stopped. Since I slept like a dead hippo I had to pretty much take his word for it that all this racket had been going on and was now over.
Now, fast forwarding 29 years later, a few days ago I mentioned Gaston the Cat to my brother. I was shocked when he recalled Gaston straight away. As far as I could tell the only notice he’d ever taken of Gaston was to refer to him as “that hairy ball of cat piss” and blame Gaston every morning for his lack of sleep. He actually recalled Gaston with some fondness, in fact. I took a chance and asked him what went on with him and Darla. I was even more shocked that he answered: my brother was not given to talking of his relationships. However, after a few beers, a big meal, and follow up brandy, he was feeling mellow, his wife was asleep, and what the hell, we were talking of the days when he had a full head of hair, a six pack, arms like telephone poles, and no mortgage. In any case, it seems he and Darla had a relationship that my brother described as “pelvic” and conversations that involved very little in the way of actual thought, beyond who loved whom more. This was all well and good with my brother till Darla made some mention of me and her family’s cat. He didn’t get into details, but left no doubt that whatever she said was decidedly unkind. The relationship with Darla pretty much ended right there, I guess.
As I sit here and type this, I’m betting it would be churlish of me to think that it was the aspersion on the cat’s honor that got him riled so. In any case, we both agreed that Gaston was an honorable and faithful creature and he agreed to forgive whatever Gaston might have done in the name of love. We had a solemn toast in Gaston’s honor and memory and I now tip my hat to my brother: I wouldn’t have done it for him, in all likelihood. Darla was pretty hot.